Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) has extended the deadline for traders to use electronic billing machines in business transactions to March 31, 2014.
The revenue body had initially set January 2014 as the deadline after which those that fail to comply would start incurring fines.
The e-billing machines are meant to do away with manual methods by automatically calculating value added tax (VAT) owed by businesses to RRA, as well as controlling sales and stock by processing and storing invoices.
However, despite several calls by RRA urging traders to purchase and start using the machines, only about 800 businesses out of 10,000 registered VAT payers are using them.
"These machines were introduced in February this year to facilitate both the traders and tax authorities. Despite the ease in using them, many traders are not complying," Ben Kagarama, the Commissioner General of RRA, said at a news briefing yesterday.
The tax body provided free machines to 800 traders in the pilot phase, but the rest of the business community are required to buy their own equipment.
Most business operators allege that the machines are too expensive. There are currently three international companies authorised to sell the machines to traders, with each going for $700 (Rwf450,000).
"Why would I pay Rwf450,000 for a machine that I can do without. That is a lot of money and I do not think I can recover it because I do not make a lot of profits," Alfonse Karemera, a shop owner in Nyabugogo, told The New Times.
Others have in previous meetings said the machines do not function well. Claude Nzaramba, who works with a local IT firm, said in September: "The machines are of poor quality and always break down. We were told that the invoices they provide last for years, but they fade within a few months that one cannot even read the figures."
However, RRA maintains that most of the traders are reluctant to use them because they want to evade tax.
"Even some traders who have the machines do not know how to use them. Some of them prefer to sell goods without issuing receipts because they do not want to be taxed," Kagarama said.
"These machines are not a burden as some traders purport. We introduced them to ease their work and ours, alongside other automated platforms like online-declaration," Kagarama added.
Probably the size of a smart phone, an electronic billing machine comprises two components; a Sales Data Controller (SDC) which records every transaction and a Certified Invoicing System (CIS) which provides invoices.
Once they are made obligatory, large taxpayers who fail to use them will be fined Rwf20 million, while medium tax-payers will be charged Rwf10 million. Small and micro taxpayers will pay Rwf5 million and Rwf1m fine respectively.
Meanwhile, presenting the status of revenue collections for the first quarter of 2013/2014 (July-October) Kagarama said they fell short of the set target by 2.3 per cent, owing to a decrease in imports.
While RRA had set a target of Rwf243.5 billion for the reporting period, it collected Rwf237.9 billion.
"In the first quarter of this financial year, imports reduced by 3.8 per cent, meaning that taxes, including value added tax decreased," Kagarama said.
"In particular, motor vehicle importation decreased below expectations and this resulted in less revenue collection, including VAT and money collected through registration fees," he added.
Another reason why revenue fell below expectations is that, several government and regional infrastructural projects which were slated to generate revenue worth Rwf8.7 billion did not kick off. This, according to RRA, would have pushed revenues above the target.
Kagarama is, however, confident that the drop is only a hiccup and that the situation will improve.
"The economy has been growing steadily while general revenue growth has been 15 per cent per year. Our targets are still within reach and our tax collection methods are getting stronger," Kagarama said.
RRA targets up to collect Rwf795.7 billion in this fiscal year, from Rwf665.8 billion collected in the last fiscal year between July 2012 and June2013.